The UK’s statistics bureau released its latest crime data report this Thursday (Oct. 17), touting the country’s continued crackdown on crimes of all kinds. Indeed, crime is falling across the board; crimes against households, citizens and society are all at the lowest level since 1981, when the bureau began tracking such information. Violence, on the whole, is, too. There are, however, two types of crimes that are bucking the downward trend.
Despite drops in every other crime category since 1981, both bicycle thefts and thefts from persons (pickpocketing being the most well-known example) are, rather incredibly, more prevalent than they were over 30 years ago.
The report itself doesn’t offer any specific explanations as to why two largely petty crimes have not only persisted over decades marked by falling crime rates, but thrived. But it’s easy enough to speculate.
For one, households don’t hold the kind of bounty that they used to. As the Economist pointed out back in April, the reality is that there isn’t a whole lot worth stealing in homes these days. “Nobody wants pilfered microwaves or DVD players. Modern televisions are often too big to carry. Jewelry, especially gold and platinum, is still popular, as are computers, mobile phones and cash. But the old crimes simply do not pay like they used to.” Pickpocketing and the like offers the sort of small, easily concealed objects burglars can snatch, hide and still make a pretty penny on.
As for bike thefts, they’re something of a milder form of a dying trade: car thefts. Improved alarm systems and central locking technology have made it exponentially more difficult to drive off with someone else’s vehicle. What used to be a relatively easy endeavor is now a crime committed only by those skillful enough to pull it off. Bicycles, however, despite offering a much more modest reward, aren’t nearly as difficult or risky to snatch.
Still, there were only 18 bicycle thefts and 12 pickpocketing-type crimes committed for every 1,000 households in England last year. Whether the UK manages to turn those trends downwards doesn’t change the fact that the country has done a remarkable job at curbing crime, both petty and not. The murder rate last year was the lowest since 1978, and crime on the whole has halved in both England and Wales over the past 20 years.